Where is Hope Without Simple Courage

I think everyone who has read it in the last 24 hours has been shocked by the story of the Good Samaritan — left to bleed to death on the sidewalk from stab wounds he received trying to save the life of another human being — if not take a moment to read about it:

I have to wonder what was going through the minds of those people who passed by this man… were they running late? Were they too busy to stop? Were they simply afraid? Where was courage? I think sometimes we label courage as these outlandish heroic acts — sometimes we mistakenly attribute “courage” to athletes — it is woven quite generously into evening newscasts — we talk about courage so liberally that it makes me angry to wonder — where was the simple, decent, moral courage on this New York street?

While writing The Mockingbird Parables I had to spend some time examining the nature of courage. I focused on the small town lawyer Atticus Finch as a profound model of the attribute. During my research I ran across Erwin McManus’s definition of courage. He says something like — “courage is not the absence of fear — but the absence of self…” In Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s novel I think we find a character that doesn’t necessarily fit our culture’s aesthetically sexy definition of hero — not in the sound-bite infused — headline obsessed sense of the word. He is simply a man who makes decisions to do what is morally right no matter his fears – no matter the cost. He defines courage as he sets aside concerns of self-preservation and walks toward helping another human being. It is his simple decisions to do what is right that inspires his children and brings hope to the community around him. I wrote:”This is the type of courage that makes us realize there is something divine hidden in the DNA of humanity.”

And yet seven people passed by this wounded man laying on the city street — and apparently the woman he had saved from the attack had not even bothered to help him… there are deep issues here… it makes me wonder if the absence of courage is hopelessness. Is it not our responsibility — as people of faith — people who are supposed to live as though death is not the final answer — to be the models of true courage? I don’t think I have read or heard a more profound call for us to practice courage in our neighborhoods and cities: “Is anybody human anymore?” asked Raechelle Groce, visiting her grandmother at a nearby building on Monday. “What’s wrong with humanity?” Just think … if only one of those seven human beings had simply shown the courage to stop for a moment and help — they probably wouldn’t have been praised by the evening news or had an award ceremony thrown in their honor — the truth is that they might not even have been able to save this man’s life — but the world would certainly be a much more hopeful place than it seems this morning…

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